New Zealand’s transport minister has apologised for insulting Finland, claiming his remarks were sarcastic and just made in jest.
During a debate, Gerry Brownlee said the country “has worse unemployment than us, has less economic growth than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates its people, and has no respect for women.”
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has already received an apology from New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, but Brownlee claims no harm was intended.
“I apologise for them taking offence, but it was meant to be humorous,” he told Radio New Zealand. ”I’m sure New Zealanders have been on the butt of all sorts of jokes at various times and not taken offence at such a thing.”
He went on the claim that he used the colourful language in an attempt to make a point about the opposition Labour party.
“People have got to see it for what it was. It’s a five-minute debate; this was 20 seconds or so in the debate,” he said. “It wasn’t intended to be offensive to Finland. It was pointing out that the sort of strange approach that we have from the Labour party, saying let’s be more like them [Finland] but then opposing the very policies that have got them into those positions,” Brownlee claimed.
The comments were not received well by Finns, with talk show host Tuomas Enbuske last week launching into an English-language rant aimed at New Zealand.
“We have Kimi Räikkönen, you have sheep. We have Linus Torvalds, you have sheep. We have the Angry Birds game. You have sheep. We have Alvar Aalto, you have sheep. We have Nokia, you have sheep,” Enbuske said, according to YLE.